Emily Jones graduated in 2008 with a Music degree. She now works as a Festival Manager at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
What was the best part of your degree?
“The friendly feel was great, and the opportunity to be involved in the creation and performance of new music was really eye-opening for me. The structure of the course meant that I was able to get involved in other activities, such as the orchestras, new music ensemble, wind band, musical theatre, big band, other jazz bands and societies. However, it was quite challenging to manage my time - a good lesson for later life!”
How did studying at the University help prepare you for your career?
“It improved my writing and research skills, which I use all the time now for writing funding applications and marketing copy and proposals. Also, as a percussionist I was quite in demand for ensembles, so I learnt very quickly how to organise my time efficiently and fit a lot in, which has stood me in good stead running a festival.
“As well as the skills gained from the Music course, I became President of the Jazz and Blues Society in my final year - the experience in organising events was quite helpful in getting an internship, which in turn led to my first job at Town Hall Symphony Hall.”
How did you get to where you are today?
“I spent the first year after graduation without much of a plan! That gave me time to do internships and try various things from instrumental teaching to tour planning. I decided I wanted to organise events, and was fortunate to get a job at Town Hall Symphony Hall, as the Assistant to the Director of Programming. I learnt a lot from the Director, and was given a range of different events to organise - everything from pre-concert talks to liaising with international orchestras.
“I was promoted to Programming Co-ordinator, which involved a bit more responsibility, and then I moved to London to do a similar job at the Barbican, where I got a great insight into producing high-profile and more unusual events before moving to Cheltenham as Festival Manager.
“As one of the people who actually programmes the festival, I get to see my ideas and suggestions for bands or projects come to life and be enjoyed by thousands of people at the festival and on national radio.”
What advice would you give current students?
“Get involved in as many extra activities as possible, organising them as well as performing/participating. Be ambitious and think big - many people will graduate with similar experience to you but if you can show you took your work to the next level, you will stand out to employers. Birmingham is a great place to find opportunities and meet people because the arts, and specifically music, community is actually quite small and well-networked.
“Also remember there is cultural life outside of the university - most students don't discover the wealth of arts available in the city until after they graduate and it's a real shame. Many arts organisations have great student schemes now, so it doesn't cost a lot to try things out.”